Ah, spring! The season of hay fever, taxes and deep cleaning. Yuck. Besides the general housekeeping, that I know you do on a regular basis (right?) — like dusting, vacuuming, wiping counters, changing your sheets and generally tidying up — once a year, we need to dive below the surface and get rid of a winter’s worth of dust, debris, dirt and detritus.
Look, I dislike spring cleaning as much as you do. So, let’s just get this over with, suck it up and dive into the cracks, corners, closets and crevices of our homes.
If it makes you feel better, our misery has lots of company. According to the American Cleaning Institute, 77 percent of households spring clean every year. “It’s a yearly ritual,” said Brian Sansoni, spokesman for the institute, which has been providing information on safe and proper cleaning since 1926.
Pretty weather makes the job a little more tolerable, but the real reward comes from knowing your house is as clean as a nun’s conscience after confession, not that I would know.
And while spring cleaning your house won’t ever be effortless, a few advancements are making the chore less effortful, said Sansoni. Today’s all-purpose cleaners top the list.
Remember that bucket your mom lugged around with the fifteen cleaning products? Today, you really can have just one product for almost everything. New multi-purpose cleaners not only clean and kill 99 percent of household germs, but they come in nice scents, so your house won’t smell like a hospital. One bottle also means fewer items cluttering the space under the sink.
To find the right one, read the labels, Sansoni said. “Look for the types of surfaces the product is intended to clean, and also for what they’re not intended for.”
For a one-two punch, pair the multi-purpose cleaner with microfiber cleaning cloths, and say good-by to the mounds of rags, sponges, and paper towel rolls, added Kathryn Emery, home improvement & lifestyle expert. “Microfiber cloths pick up many times more dirt and dust than regular rags, don’t leave streaks, and don’t drop the dust once you wipe a surface.” These cloths work wet or dry, and are machine washable for multiple uses, so better for the environment.
Products like Magic Eraser (for walls), Bona (for wood floors), floor robot vacuums (because you have better things to do than push a vacuum), and Swiffer are among the products Mom didn’t have that make cleaning a lot easier.
“Heck,” said Sansoni, “even guys in college can use dusting sheets on their floors.”
“I’m working on training my dog,” I said.
So, on the next nice weekend, throw open the windows, roll up your sleeves and just do it. Here are the top 10 spring cleaning projects to tackle, plus a few tips to lighten the lift.
1. Start at the top.
Go one room at a time and work top to bottom. Start with high window casings, then move to light fixtures and ceiling fans. To clean fans, spray blades with a cleaner, then tuck each blade in an old pillowcase and swipe. This keeps dust from falling on beds or furniture. A good microfiber cloth will also grab dirt. Remove all books and accessories from shelves, and wipe both the objects and the shelves. Wipe walls and switch-plate covers.
2. Call it curtains.
Run a vacuum with a dust brush attachment over window treatments, starting at the tops of the drapes and working down. Another way to refresh draperies is to take them down, remove their hardware and run them in the dryer’s air cycle for 15 minutes with a damp towel to draw out dust. Wipe blinds with a damp cloth working side to side, top to bottom.
3. Dive in the cracks.
Pull all removable cushions off sofas and chairs, take them outside and give them a good smack. Vacuum them and the area under the cushions. Clean surface stains, or, for heavily soiled surfaces, call a pro.
4. Get behind what you’ve ignored.
Pull out your washer and dryer and wipe out all the dirt that’s collected behind those cleaning machines. Do the same for your refrigerator, including the coils.
5. Take it outside.
Clotheslines may be a relic of the past, but fresh air and sunshine are still a formidable cleaning team. On a nice day, shake out comforters, blankets and pillows, and hang them outside to air. Take area rugs outside and give them a shake and a good beating.
6. Purge closets and cupboards.
Working one closet or cupboard at a time, pull everything out. Clean the space, then assess what’s left. Only put back items you need, use or love — and that you would buy again. Donate or toss the rest, and don’t look back.
7. Tackle the larder.
Empty the pantry. Toss stale, expired food, and anything you really won’t ever eat. Size up what you have, then label shelves. Organize the pantry so heavier cans and bottles are low, and lighter items are high. Restock shelves so they look like a grocery store aisle.
8. Wash those windows.
Open the windows, and pop out the screens. Vacuum the insect colonies, wash out the sills and tracts, scrub screens with a brush or an old carpet scrap, clean the glass and put it all back together.
9. Polish your metal.
Use your all-purpose cleaner (or a solution of half alcohol and half water) and wipe grease and fingerprints off everything that shines, or should.
10. Wax your wood.
Most wood furniture and floors do fine with a simple wipe down, but once a year, after cleaning the surface, apply a little paste wax.
Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of five home and lifestyle books, including Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go and the forthcoming Downsizing the Blended Home – When Two Households Become One (Sterling Publishing, Dec. 2019). You may reach her at www.marnijameson.com.